Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ruins in the snow

For those who may have wondered where the Crow has been, I've spent the last few days visiting the 'rents in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where they have chosen to spent their later years -- specifically, in Calumet on the Keweenaw Peninsula, which (as my dad would be happy to explain to you in great detail), is in the midst of Copper Country.

Here's a bit of a history lesson: the Keweenaw peninsula is rich in copper, which started a mining boom in the middle of the 1800s--I'm not enough of an aficionado of the period to give a complete history, but here's a brief summery from Wikepidia.

One thing that did catch my interest as I was driving northward were the ruins along highway 26 between Houghton and Calumet.

It turns out that these are the ruins of a stamp mill -- as my dad explained, the facility was used to crush huge rocks sent down from the copper mines further up the hill, so that the rocks were turned to sand, and only the hunks of copper remained.

I enjoyed wandering among the ruins taking photos -- although to be honest, the history of the area as shown by the ruins of the stamp mill, although interesting, is not the point in time I'd chose to visit if I had a free trip in a time machine. I'd chose a century or two earlier, and hang with the French explorers, the Ojibway, and the passenger pigeons.

Besides, there's a certain gravitas to ruins; you don't necessarily want to know the facts. Sometimes it's more interesting to just wander around taking photos. OK, the past history major in me is so shocked at that statement that I take it back! It's better to know!

There used to be so much copper in the area that even the pulverized rock, post-stamping, had enough to dredge out afterward. And then, some time in the sixties, it stopped being profitable to mine for copper in the Upper Peninsula...the competition from the western mines was too great, and the mines had to go down so deep, that it was no longer worth the companies' while, and they closed up shop....

And for those of you who want to know what birds I saw Up North...I promise to share all the news on the birding front later this week!

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